Tiny Skillet has chosen pumpkin chocolate chip squares for next week.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent engrossed in this huge volume: Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. The first 300 or so pages are just photos, with brief explanations, of Martha’s parties (you’ll find recipes in the last 100 pages). You’ll see inside her various homes, and the grounds of those homes. The MSLO cast of characters is present at many parties, but so are some of Martha’s friends and families. There are parties for everything you can imagine: tea, July 4th, breakfast on the porch, dinner in the clerestory, celebrating a master gardener, Christmas, Easter, spring dinner, and even a picnic at sea. Martha likes to party apparently!
I enjoyed this because it was just so completely over the top. This isn’t a book you pick up and think, “Ok, I’ll do that for the party I’m having next weekend.” Certainly it’s inspirational, and you’ll find loads of great ideas for decorations and food (not to mention the china, silver, and crystal that all looks so lovely), but few people are going to be able to replicate most of this. That being said, it is just a fun book to read through, particularly if you want to catch a glimpse inside Martha’s life or if you just love good photos of food and decor. There are many ideas here that can be toned down to work for the average person. I loved the Peony Garden Party and would love to incorporate some of those ideas to a gathering at my home.
The recipes are mostly very high yield (30+ people) although there are some that are smaller. The recipes are delicious sounding, but honestly there aren’t too many I felt compelled to try. I probably won’t be making Mini Crab Papapadams, Terrine of Duck Breast and Leg Confit, or Orange Easter Cake with Tiny Meringue Nests any time soon. That doesn’t matter though because this is a book about fantasies – the parties you would give if you had a catering staff on hand and Kevin Sharkey on retainer.
I truly enjoyed this book (which I borrowed from the library), but won’t be plunking down $75 to own it. It’s definitely fun to poke around in and ooh and aah at the gorgeous photos, the decadent food, and Martha’s incredible lifestyle.
I have an opinion piece up in the Soapbox section of Zester today you might be interested in reading – it talks about how my Martha project led me to write my cookbook.
Pru at Perfecting Pru chose today’s project – potato gratin in a muffin tin. Did you try it? I made it and it worked but I thought it was a bit lacking in flavor. There’s no butter in this, other than the cooking spray on the tin (maybe I should have actually rubbed a stick of butter on it). Easy to make, but those muffin tins are a pain to clean if you don’t use liners, and this recipe didn’t. I can safely tell you, having cooked hundreds of muffin tin recipes, for my upcoming book The Muffin Tin Cookbook, that you want to use liners whenever possible!
Have you tried yogurt cheese? I actually made Martha’s version of yogurt cheese a while ago, and it was a disaster. That didn’t stop me from buying some in the deli department when I found this organic version. I really, really like it. And you get the added benefit of probiotics from it. It’s a little tangy, but not so that your kids wouldn’t eat it. Let them think it is white American and no one will know.
We first enjoyed sweet potato muffins when we were in Colonial Williamsburg, where we stopped for a weekend before we headed to Hilton Head for a family vacation several years ago. We had a great time, except for how dang hot it was. I ended up buying a giant straw hat just to stop the sun from burning my face, shoulders and neck (even with sunscreen on). My husband bought a refillable mug and kept getting it reloaded with root beer to stay cool.
We love living history museums and this was a great one, except there was a LOT of walking, which is not so much fun with kids in the heat. We spent two days here and saw a witch trial, took a ghost tour, explored the governor’s palace and visited many working period shops in the “town” and petted some farm animals. My daughter declared that Patrick Henry was her hottie after passing him on the street where he was proclaiming “give me liberty or give me death.”. She came home with a tricorn hat to remember the experience.
We stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands hotel in a nice little two room suite, which was like a lovely little Poconos-type resort with a game room, a mini golf course in the woods, and lots of green space. One night we dined at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, a tavern George Washington often visited. This is where we had the muffins, and all of us enjoyed them immensely. After we came home, I hunted down a recipe and found it online somewhere (the tavern used to hand out the recipe to diners). I do this a lot when we travel – enjoy something and come home to learn how to make it myself.
I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years and it remains a family favorite, perfect for fall, and for Thanksgiving! Serve with honey butter.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes/yams (about one yam)
1/2 cup skim milk
optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray 12 regular size muffin tins with cooking spray (I use silicone tins). Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in eggs, yam, and milk and mix completely. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and spices and mix until completely combined. If using pecans, stir them in. Divide among muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 4 tablespoons butter in a food processor. You can also use maple syrup instead of honey.
I only made one of these onions (in November Living, not online yet) because I knew I wouldn’t like it (I don’t like Italian sausage or fennel) and the kids wouldn’t eat it. I had hopes that Mr. MarthaAndMe might eat it, but he did not care for the onion. He thought the stuffing was good. I don’t quite understand the concept of eating an onion, even if it is stuffed. Maybe the rest of you liked it and we’re just weird? It wasn’t hard to make – just took some time. It was also pretty with the red color. Sassy Suppers chose this one, by the way.
I want to let everyone know we have a new member – Ashley at Lady Tailor. She will join in starting next week. Welcome Ashley!
Of course I had to read Whateverland, by Alexis Stewart (Martha’s daughter) and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt (who costarred with her on the Whatever radio and TV shows). This is being billed as some kind of self-help guide – their rules for living or some such nonsense. Let’s be honest here. The only reason to read this is to snoop inside their lives, specifically Alexis’s world with her mother. Each chapter is made up of vignettes from each of them (Alexis seems to have the most though) and ends with a bullet pointed list that offers tips for living – just skip those. The lists are pointless. The vignettes are what is interesting.
Both women are not normal. At all. Jennifer is at least likeable despite her phobias and anxiety. Raised in a sheltered, wealthy life as a child of a music industry mogul (she celebrated Xmas with Barbra Streisand and had the Beastie Boys perform at her sweet 16 party) she’s very open about her issues and how they developed. I loved her honesty and thoughtfulness about her life. She recently lost a lot of weight and is very open about her life before and after the weight loss. She comes across as a person you would enjoy chatting with and definitely has that girlfriend vibe.
Alexis, on the other hand, is unlikeable, cold, entitled, and just awful in so many ways and it comes out loudly and clearly in this book. She spends a lot of time blaming her parents for making her the way she is but there isn’t a lot of reflection on her own persona in any thoughtful way. She’s very rigid. She’s also just really weird – she hates having breasts, she is very open that she likes to sleep with a lot of men, she loves to bake but will not eat a single thing she makes, she hates hugging or touching people, and she makes it clear she just does not like people at all. She’s honest about the fact that she has seemingly no drive or interest in a career and that Martha owns her giant apartment.
If you are interested in what Martha was like as a mother, you’ll want to read this. You’ve probably heard the media frenzy when this book came out about how Alexis had “a glue gun to her head,” had to wrap her own Xmas gifts, and how Martha always went to the bathroom with the door open. There’s lots more in here though, as well as plenty of photos of Alexis as a child. There are plenty of contradictions – Martha was a cold, uninterested, neglectful, unloving mother (Alexis had to shorten her own school uniforms – there is a photo of her with a horrible looking hem – her parents never played games with her, they bought her nothing, she had to do lots of hard manual labor), yet there are stories about Alexis waking up to a giant Easter basket of her favorite candy and how Martha held little “chef” classes for Alexis and friends. She also makes it clear that despite the horrible things she says about Martha, that they are very close. She does not speak at all about her new daughter, Jude (Jennifer talks about her children and being a mom frequently), which I find quite strange.
One of the weirdest things about the book is the final chapter in which the women say they are no longer co-workers (Jennifer does the Whatever radio show alone now) and no longer friends. No explanation is given. I saw them appear on the Today show together to discuss the book and it was clear to me that Alexis decided she was done with Jennifer (she said something about how it’s like a divorce where you wake up one day and decide you no longer like this person). That comes as no surprise after the way she talks about how she enjoys seeking revenge on people and how she kicks people to the curb in her life frequently with no regrets.
If you’re hoping for a self-help book, look elsewhere. If you are just nosy and want to get the inside scoop on Martha, pick this up for a quick read.
I was making a really quick dinner recently but was just craving something that felt slow cooked. I came up with this moist, delicious chicken recipe that has a cider infused gravy. It was fantastic (yes, there was fighting over it at the table). Serve with some mashed or oven roasted potatoes (which will taste great with the gravy!).
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup cider
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp butter
2 tsp Wondra
1/4 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 and spray a small glass baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in it and pour cider over them. Sprinkle onion powder, rosemary, salt and pepper on chicken and dot with butter. Bake for 25 minutes until the breasts are cooked (165 degrees with a meat thermometer). Remove the breasts and heat the pan over a burner. Whisk in Wondra and broth until thick. Serve over chicken.
Super simple, but with a very complex flavor!